The type of employment you have when you become an adult makes all the difference in how you live your life. It dictates when you’re asleep or awake, what you wear, what you’ll be exposed to, the type of people you will encounter, and your standard of living (unless you are independently wealthy or someone else contributes to your income). Though it’s possible to change some of these by changing where you work, the bottom line is that work plays a significant role in our lives. Besides the income we derive from being employed, many jobs also provide benefits, social interaction, a sense of accomplishment, ways to enhance our self-worth through positive contributions, and an identity (while especially true for men, for many (but not all) women, it’s equally true). So there’s a lot of positive to be said for working.
On the other hand, “work” can bring a source of conflict. When you’re employed, your employer counts on you to be present, timely, focused, energetic, accurate, cooperative, cordial, and do your very best on their behalf. If they need you to switch up your hours, they expect you to be able to make any necessary personal adjustments to make that happen. Most employers (though they might not say it) expect your job to come first. Many tell their employees, “Leave your personal life at the door. You should not be thinking about anything else but your job when you’re here.” Though working can be a good thing, being a caregiver and an employee are often in direct conflict. For instance:
Employers expect employees to be at work and on time. That expectation is often difficult, if not impossible, for a caregiver. A caregiver needs to provide the following for them self and dependent before arriving at work: grooming, dressing, toileting, feeding (preparing, feeding, and cleanup), oral hygiene, and preparations for the day—any one of which can lead to a delay beyond their control (clothing that gets soiled after dressing has occurred, toileting that takes twice as long, as usual, food spilling on before-mentioned clothing, emotional breakdowns needing attention, equipment that does not work, etc.) I have to plan to allow three hours for “us” to get ready if I’m going somewhere, and I still find that my being on time can be unpredictable.
Employers expect their employees to be well-rested and energetic. Caregivers often get as much sleep as is available when they finish up one day and start the next. Dah, doesn’t everyone? However, the amount of times to finish a day varies depending on their dependent’s needs on that day. Sometimes they go to bed when planned; other times, a load of laundry is unexpectedly needed, and they’re up an extra hour or two. Sleep time, for the caregiver, is also interrupted by the need to assist their dependent with comfort and bowel/bladder elimination during the night. Therefore, well-rested probably means just enough sleep to be functional. The amount of energy they have is directly proportional to the amount of caffeine ingested and still in their system.
Employers need their employees to be focused and provide accurate and competent performance. Being focused for a caregiver is a question of being focused on what? The caregiver always has to be planning to make sure they are ready for the next big event and is required to coordinate all their dependent’s activities and needs, whether in their presence or if receiving assistance from someone else. It is not uncommon that a caregiver would need to call a doctor or therapist while at work to discuss new development, arrange for equipment or supplies to be repaired and delivered, or talk to the secondary caregiver regarding a question or concern. Caregivers have to have the ability to have split personalities at all times because when at work, they need to be able to address their work duties effectively while at the same time managing the life of their dependent. They have great talent at being focused, but the need to repeatedly switch focuses is where the problem comes in.
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